Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Power Up training weekend hosted by Friends of the Earth 1-3 July 2011

Learn about Localism and how to campaign

Friday 6pm - Sunday 4pm

Details: www.foe.co.uk/news/power_up_27151.html

Power Up returns to share our knowledge and understanding about environmental justice, rights and the planning system.

Power Up is a unique training weekend designed to help you get the knowledge, confidence and contacts to use the legal and planning system to make a difference where you live.

Power up will leave you feeling inspired and energised - ready to apply new skills to your local issues

Who is Power Up for?

You don't have to be an expert - whether you're already involved in a local campaign or completely new to campaigning. Just as long as you're interested in making your area a fairer, cleaner and healthier place - then Power Up is for you.

How will Power Up help you and your community?

Power Up will give you:

· Campaign knowledge and practical tools to share with your community.

· The confidence to speak up and get involved in making decisions.

This is particularly important because of the Government's proposed changed to the planning system in the Localism Bill.

Where: Queen Mary and Westfield University, Tower Hamlets

Cost: all places are subsidised by Friends of the Earth. FoE asks for a contribution to help cover accommodation and meals for the weekend.

Full residential place £75. (Free concessionary places are available for unwaged: Unemployed/ Students/ Pensioners)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Meeting Tonight Wednesday 1st June 2011

7.15pm - 8.45pm, Stamford Hill Library
Planning, the law and your right to have a say about your environment
A joint event by Hackney Unites and Friends of the Earth
Open to everyone

Friends of the Earth runs training on planning, the law and campaigning to support community groups working to have their voice heard on decisions made about developments - from housing to supermarkets, from airports to food growing spaces. Everyone has the right to live in a fair, clean and healthy place. We believe the ‘Environment’ isn’t separate from us, but it is where we live, where we work, where our children play.

In Hackney planning policy, regulation and enforcement has at times been a divisive issue.

This session is focussed on empowering residents so that they can have their voice heard. This event, run by Friends of the Earth and Hackney unites, will be a small taster of the training and resources offered by Friends of the Earth’s Rights and Justice team. It is also part of Hackney Unites on-going strategy of bringing experts and residents together to provide relevant training that allows our communities to get their voices heard. Whether it is the controversial proposals for areas of exception, or the wholesale redevelopment of estates, residents’ views and needs have too often been ignored and marginalised.

Come and:
* Share your experiences getting involved in decision making in the borough
* Get an introduction to what your rights are in this area and why they matter
* Here about changes proposed to the way planning decisions are made in the Localism bill and how to get involved in campaigning for better rights to participate
* Find out about resources available to help you work on environmental issues you care about

Sunday, 28 October 2007

It's certainly never dull when dealing with Hackney Council

We have now received a letter from the Government Office for London. It appears that the Council may not have a legal basis for the policy document that includes the proposed areas of exception.

This is quite a technical point, but a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) cannot make council policy, it can only give guidance on existing policy. The proposed SPD relied on three Council pre-existing Council policies, two of which have lapsed (it appears the council forgot to renew them), the third of which applies only to conservation areas.

Consequently it appears doubtful that the Council can adopt the SPD without first adopting some basic policies.The Council is suggesting that it can rely on a general 'plan for London', the principles of which the Council has adopted, but this seems unlikely (or should I say 'desperate'). The Council intends to continue with its existing proposals.

We have been led to believe that the Council may remove the phrase 'area of exception' which is viewed a problematic, but they are currently committed to the substance of the proposals. The latest proposed timescale is that the report will go to Cabinet in December, but there is every reason to suspect that this timescale will be extended. In any event, our campaign must continue to build in strength.

The accidental lapsing of important Council policies is of course a typical Hackney Council 'cock up', but what does it mean for our campaign? Well the good news is that it makes it even harder for the Council to simply ram through the existing proposals, and consequently more likely that we will, eventually, get them amended.

The bad news? Well it appears the Council no longer has any policy on residential extensions! It is therefore possible that unscrupulous developers with good lawyers can appeal any application (however outrageous) that is rejected on the basis that the Council has no policy grounds for rejection.

What have we done?
We have written to the Mayor, Jules Pipe seeking a meeting. We will also be seeking a meeting with Diane Abbot to discuss this matter further. Our hope is that they will agree to meet us at a meeting open to all Planning Watch supporters (but not a public meeting as our previous public meeting demonstrated how difficult it is to find a venue large enough).

We are also undertaking legal research to establish whether we have strong grounds for Judicial Review. We currently have one 'volunteer' who may be eligible for legal aid in relation to this matter, but we definitely need more applicants. If you fit the following definition and are willing to speak to our lawyer (currently giving his services for free!), please let us know) :

a) Own a flat or house within one of the areas of exception, and
b) in receipt of Income Support, Jobseekers' Allowance or Pension Credit.

What you can do?
We still have a number of streets that need to be leafleted, Volunteers to leaflet these streets would be much appreciated:

Adolphus Road
Blackstock Road
Brand Close
Brownswood Road
Gloucester Drive
Kings Crescent
Somerfield Road
Wilberforce Road

Street surveys
If anyone wants to survey their own street, then please contact Jane, who is co-ordinating this. We currently have 11 streets where we have a survey. It's easy to do, and only takes an afternoon. It will help if when we speak about the proposed areas of exception we have more information than the council officers!

'Street watch'
We are hoping to develop a network of people who are prepared to regularly check for developments in their streets. It merely involves logging onto the Council's website and checking for new applications. This should only take an half an hour once a fortnight, but it will ensure that we have visibility of proposed inappropriate developments before the date for comments and objections has passed. Anyone with a computer with internet access can do this (if your too busy, why not ask your kids!).

Next steps
Please let us know your ideas for what we should be doing next.

Also here is notice of another planning issue that you might want to support.

What's happening in Durlston Road?
As you may have noticed, number 62 Durlston Road has undergone major building work over the last 2 and a half years. The garden space has been completely filled in by an extension with a roof terrace on top. 6 air conditioning units have been added to the side and rear of the house and the garden wall has been knocked down to annex the council-owned alleyway between 60 and 62.

All of this has happened without planning permission and without any consultation with the people living close by.If you've ever wanted to extend your house or build a roof terrace, you will know that both planning permission and consultation are a required part of the process.Some of our local streets have already seen inappropriate developments leading to noise, loss of light and privacy and damage to the integrity of the 'streetscape' - this overdevelopment is not good for our community.

Hackney Council are currently proposing to sell the alleyway between 60 and 62 Durlston Road despite the fact that it was illegally taken over, they are allowing work to continue without planning permission and our neighbourhoods are being destroyed.

If you are worried about any of this, please come along to a meeting on November 1st at 7.30 at Tower Gardens Estate Community Office, 2 Inglethorpe House, Tower Gardens Estate, London E5.

Did you know?
Hackney Council plans to exclude 30 streets in Stamford Hill from normal planning protection, extension restrictions will be relaxed & dimensions increased. Hackney Council feels that the streetscape is already damaged by abuses of planning permission, due to a period of corruption within the planning office, yet many of the streets included in the draft have been untouched & remain true to their Victorian character. Consultation ended with the majority of the residents affected unaware of the proposals, no letters were sent out, a small article in the local paper made some aware. Stamford Hill streetscapes have a unique Victorian character, the area of exclusion would allow the character & heritage to be lost to inappropriate developments, & increase the density of occupation in already crowded streets. We, the undersigned, object to the sale of the alleyway between 60 and 62 Durlston Road. The alley was annexed without permission or consultation and should be restored to its previous usage immediately.


Sunday, 7 October 2007

Newsletter 3 - Urgent action needed…

Hackney council is proposing to introduce a policy where properties in streets in Stamford Hill, around Queens Drive and in Cricketfield Road are deemed to be within ‘areas of exception’ where normal rules relating to planning will not be applied. We believe that all residents of Hackney should receive the same protection f r o m inappropriate development wherever they live in the borough. It cannot be justified that different rules to apply in different streets, such that developments which would not be allowed elsewhere, are approved in our streets.

Some of our streets have already seen too many inappropriate developments leading to noise, loss of light and privacy, and damage to the integrity of the ‘streetscape’. There have been too many full width dormers (effectively adding an additional story to the property) and gardens that have been either wholly or largely in-filled to provide additional rooms. This overdevelopment is not for the good of the community, as it all too often provides substandard rental accommodation where landlords exploit vulnerable tenants. This proposed policy will go to the Council’s Cabinet for approval (probably in November).

None of the Cabinet members represent residents in the affected areas and it looks as if our streets are to be abandoned to rogue landlords and property speculators. Hackney Planning Watch has little confidence that Hackney Council is either willing or able to exercise its planning regulation function effectively. Unless we, as residents, monitor the situation, they will allow our neighbourhoods to be destroyed by allowing inappropriate developments.

Please help…

  • Hackney Planning Watch has produced a detailed report calling on the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears MP, to intervene and stop this policy (which we believe may be so unreasonable as to make it unlawful).

  • Please visit our website and download a copy: http://hackneyplanningwatch.blogspot.com. If you agree with us then please send us a letter or email stating that you wish your name to be added to those already endorsing the report.

  • We are calling on residents to undertake a street survey of their own street to identify developments that have no planning permission and those which are operating as unlicensed bedsits or (also known as ‘houses in multiple occupation’). Surveys already undertaken by our supporters have been submitted to the Council with requests that enforcement action is taken. Please write to members of the Council’s cabinet calling on them not to agree this policy and ask them to meet with residents to hear our concerns.

    For contact details of cabinet members please visit:

  • Call a street meeting and get the views of your neighbours and agree to monitor proposed developments in your street for compliance with Council policies.

  • Please sign our on-line petition: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/planningwatch

    Legal challenge

  • Please consider if you are eligible for ‘legal aid’ and if so whether you would be prepared to help take a test case regarding the legality of the Council’s proposals

    We believe that the council’s proposals are so deeply flawed that they would not survive a legal challenge by way of judicial review. However such action is potentially very costly, so we are seeking volunteers who are residents of the area and who may be eligible for legal aid. If you feel aggrieved by this policy and you meet the criteria below please let us know. Are you in receipt of:

-Income Support

-Income-based Job Seekers' Allowance

-Guarantee State Pension Credit (under section 1(3)(a) of the State Pension Credit Act 2002(a))

If so let us know!

  • Join our list of supporters and we will keep you informed of upcoming events (send us your email and address).

    Hackney Planning Watch was established by local residents in 1998 when Hackney Council had devolved planning decisions to neighbourhood committees.

    At the time, Hackney was going through one of its periodic crisis and there was widespread concern at malpractice in the planning department and a perception that the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Committee was corrupt. Eventually, we were forced to take a judicial review against the council in relation to a particularly extreme example of malpractice. The council was forced to concede the case, pay our costs and right the wrong. Soon afterwards the planning function was recentralised.

    However, the council continues to approve developments that are contrary to its core policies. As recently as July 2007, the planning committee approved a development that will see the complete in-fill of the back gardens of two adjoining houses in a residential street. This was in conflict with any number of council policies, and will result in a series adverse effect on the amenity of neighbours. Despite a petition and a well-argued case against the development, it was nodded through by councillors. Now they intend to make it a formal policy that they will not apply the usual rules in some of our residential streets.

    The proposed areas of Exception

    Hackney Council is proposing to create three ‘areas of exception’ where its planning policies on residential extensions will be applied differently to elsewhere in the borough. These ‘areas of exception’ are the streets around Stamford Hill, an area around Queens Drive and on Cricketfield Road. In these areas, developments will be allowed which would not be granted permission elsewhere in the borough.

    What is the justification for this policy?

    According to the council’s policy document ‘some parts of the borough contain a large number of front roof exceptions, often consisting of full width box dormers which are contrary to current policy …in recognition of the existing situation within these areas, and the continuing needs of particular local communities, the policy will be applied with greater flexibility’.

    In other words, in those areas that have already suffered developments that are contrary to Council policy, rather than see enforcement action to right these previous wrongs, the Council intends to relax the rules so we can expect more of the same! The council’s proposals are deeply flawed, and many streets within the proposed areas of exception are unspoilt (but presumably will not remain so if this policy is approved).

    We acknowledge that some streets in the borough are in a mess, with huge amounts of unauthorised development, including the complete infill of some back gardens.

    However, the biggest problem seems to be that the Council’s planning committee has routinely authorised developments which are contrary to agreed policy. In other cases, where the council has refused planning permission, the developers have gone ahead and the council has failed to take enforcement action. The Council has been roundly criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman for these failings (see

    At a time when they are not applying the existing rules, we dread the consequences of a relaxation of those rules.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Report to The Secretary of State (Hazel Blears)

Hackney Planning Watch has submitted a report to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears. The reportis signed by many local residents and urges her to intervene using her powers under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (PaCPA) to "satisfy herself that the policy is sound and that the law has been complied with". It is our view that such an enquiry will demonstrate that the policy should be amended and the proposed areas of exception dropped.

You can read the full text of the report here in MS Word format.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

First results of survey

Why do landlords really want to alter houses in Stamford Hill?

This letter has been sent to all councillors, planning enforcement, environmental heath and the mayor today. It shows the first results of a survey of our local streets. Please let us know about your survey work and we can do one of these for every street.

From the Triangle Community Group

30 July 2007

Dear Councillors, planning enforcement and environmental health

As consequence of the council's production of the Local Development Framework and the proposed 'area of exception' a group of residents in Amhurst Park, Bethune Road, Bergholt Crescent, Cranwich Road, Denver Road, Durley Road and Dunsmure Road have formed the 'Triangle Community Group'. As part of our campaign against the area of exception and to maintain the same rules for our streets as those that apply in the rest of the borough we have begun to undertake a detailed survey of our streets. We believe that this will produce evidence to refute the suggestion by the council that our streets have already been blighted by inappropriate developments and that the area of exception is needed due to the needs of large families.

Our experience is that large houses in this area are in fact being bought up by landlords and extended and then converted into flats and bed-sits. If the council wishes to ensure that there are sufficient large properties then the area of exception will be counter-productive and instead action should be taken to prevent regulated and unregulated conversions from taking place.

Some of these large houses appear to be operating unlawfully as unlicensed HMOs. They are badly supervised and tend to create a noise and environmental nuisance. We wish to draw your attention to three. The results of our full survey will be sent to you in due course.

Of the 90-plus Victorian and Edwardian houses in Cranwich Road, the only ones we are aware of which have been the subject of planning applications, which would lead to over-development, are number 52 (which we believe has been converted, unlawfully, into flats, and is currently the subject of a Council order), number 3, and 7.

No. 3 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
HMO licence applied for and currently being processed by the Council. This has a notably dilapidated appearance and is overflowing rubbish bins. There have already been several complaints to Environmental Health yet no action has been taken.

Planning issues
In November 2006, and again in January 2007, the owner-applicant, stated that the existing use of No. 3 was as a 'single family dwelling'. This is not the case. The owner also gave No. 3 as his own address. His actual family dwelling is elsewhere in Stamford Hill.

In both cases, the application was for 'ground and first floor rear extension and erection of two rear dormers'; in both cases the Council, to its credit, turned the application down, citing the policies of the UDP.

We do not believe that this was a genuine family-type application of the kind that it is claimed justify the proposal for an 'area of exception'. On the contrary it is an example of an absentee landlord acting as a property developer seeking to maximise their income at the cost of both local residents and tenants.

This kind of thing actively needs to be discouraged, both for the sake of Hackney's administration and for the sake, also, of accountability and good management of our streets. Please note that a similar false application with a wrong Certificate 'A' has recently been made for No. 68 Cranwich Road (an infill of nearly all the back garden). The planning department is aware of this.

No. 5 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
We believe that this property has been operating as a HMO since April 2006 without a licence and is in a dilapidated and unkempt state. There are recurrent problems with rubbish. The house is divided into four flats, at least one of which we believe has housed five tenants.

Planning issues
The deeds show that property was previously owned by Hackney Council and was transferred to a religious trust in November/December, 2002. Planning permission for a pre-school and primary school for 100 pupils was immediately applied for, and turned down on the grounds that 1) a noisy school was not suitable for a residential area, 2) the large proposed extensions were intrusive and discordant, and 3) 'The proposal represents a cumulative loss of residential buildings.'

It is perhaps surprising, in view of the obvious need for family accommodation in the area that the Charitable Trust then transferred the property in April 2005 to a landlord who we believe has turned it into an unlicensed house in multiple occupation, posing a significant risk to the health and safety of the tenants and providing no increase in the availability of homes for large families in the area.

No. 73 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
We believe that this property has been operating as a HMO since April 2006 without a licence.

In March 1997, a planning application was applied for the basement of number 73 to be converted into two bedsit flats. The application was refused on the grounds that it was 'unacceptable by reason of inadequate natural lighting and size of the kitchen areas, representing an inferior standard of accommodation'. Anyone seeing the basement of number 79 would be bound to agree that the Council was, right to refuse.

Yet neighbours inform us that someone is living in this basement nevertheless. Also scrawled on its door, in large letters in green ink, is 'Flat No. 1 BASEMENT'. The person applying for planning application also filled in the Certificate 'A' form on the planning application stating that he was sole owner of the property. Yet we believe that this is not the case and that the information given to the Planning Department in 1997 was false. The owners, bought the property jointly in February 1997 and live (according to the electoral register) elsewhere in Stamford Hill

We believe that the council should take action to regularise the use of the above properties. We also believe that when it comes to planning applications the council should undertake a routine check to confirm that if the person making the application claims to be living at the property that this is true. A simple paper check with the land registry would not be expensive, and an unannounced site visit by the planning officer (when they are in the already in the area) would help to establish the truth behind some of the applications.

This is particularly important when the main reason for the council proposition that this part of the borough should be exempted from normal planning regulations, is based on the erroneous notion that these building are for extended families in single occupancy. The behaviour of the above landlords exposes the falsity in our area, of the supposed grounds for making our streets part of an 'area of exception'.

If councillors are genuinely representing local people they would see to it that relevant bodies, which include the Planning Department, building control, environmental health and the fire brigade are utilized to ensure that decent standards and statutory obligations are adhered to.

This would benefit of the tenants of these properties, and the majority of residents of Cranwich Road. It may prove unpopular with a small number of rogue landlords, but why should the council's policies be set to please landlords who are already flouting the rules?

Yours sincerely

Jane Holgate
On behalf of the Triangle community group

Encl. Documents on each of these properties have been sent by post to the planning department and environmental health department.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Register now for our campaign training

If you want to know how to navigate the council’s planning website, how to object to a planning application, how to involve the ombudsman (when the council fails to answer your concerns) or 101 other ways in which you can help to challenge inappropriate planning in your street, then pre-register for our two hour training session. Email us at planningwatch@btinternet.com